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Man Vs. (2015)
OK "found footage" thriller that completely falls apart...
*SPOILERS* So I'm a big Chris Diamantopoulos fan, ever since I caught his surprisingly touching and nuanced performance as Moe in The Three Stooges. His later menacing turn in Empire State sealed the deal as being an actor to watch. So unsurprisingly, he's the best thing in this found footage thriller that can best be described as "Bear Grylls vs. The Predator".
As awesome as that premise sounds, the problem is the movie keeps that premise as a surprise reveal until almost the end. For the first hour or so we're basically treated to a one-man Blair Witch Project where spooky stuff keeps happening, until all of a sudden a Syfy-level CGI alien pops up and then it turns into a poorly made and written monster movie. If the monster had looked halfway decent, or if the main character actually used his survival skills to do battle with the alien (like the final third of Predator), this would have been a great, fun movie. Instead it just ends nonsensically with an incredibly hard-to-see finale with over-the-top gore.
There's still some decent talent in front of and behind the camera, i just wish the filmmakers had faith in their fun premise and let it flow throughout the actual movie, instead of just being the twist at the end.
Here on Earth (2000)
A Nicolas Sparks movie from the perspective of the guy who gets punched....
*MILD SPOILERS* - Hey, you know how there's always that one guy in every Nicolas Sparks movie (usually rich and spoiled) who makes a crude remark about the hero's girlfriend and then gets punched out in a public place (usually a wedding reception or a party)? Well, if you've ever wanted to see HIS story, this is the movie for you! Even though this came out 2 years BEFORE A Walk to Remember, it came out a year after the book - I don't know if someone at 20th Century Fox ordered some writers "hey - make a movie kinda like this book NOW!", but what I do know is this movie sticks closer to the Sparks formula even moreso than AWTR! Besides Sparks standards like a small town, disapproving parents, class issues, disease, and death, this one throws in future Sparks tropes that were missing - love scene in the rain, multiple montages of people building or renovating something (usually a boat, tractor or a house; here a diner), a love triangle with a "nice guy", and a PG-13, shot from the shoulders-up sex scene - they're all here. All we're missing is handwritten letters in a box and a North Carolina coastal setting and this would actually be the ultimate Sparks movie. I wonder if he consciously or subconsciously borrowed a bunch from this movie - a true Who Made Who? situation.
But is it any good? It's entertaining and watchable, but it's also head-scratchingly wrongheaded in concept or execution. The main character is arrogant, he's sleazy, he's ungrateful, he makes fun of poor people - it seems like they're setting up some kind of redemption story, but then they forgot to film the redemption parts! He's just as big an a-hole at the end as he was at the beginning, and we're supposed to root for him for some reason as he steals another guy's girlfriend, then treats her like crap, then leaves and disses the entire town, then comes back like nothing happened. It might make some sense if Chris Klein showed any of his aw-shucks, goofy persona (from Election and American Pie, etc...) but he's simultaneously unlikable and uninteresting here, not to mention he bears a striking resemblance to mass murderer Elliot Rodger. I mean, look at his smug look on the cover, you're about to get a whole movie of that. This is the first Chris Klein movie where I don't want to hang out with his character (and yes this includes Street Fighter).
Why are we supposed to cheer on Leelee Sobieski as she cheats on her boyfriend with this guy? They have zero chemistry and they never portray her boyfriend as anything less than a good guy, and I'd argue more women would choose Josh Hartnett over Chris Klein- it's mind-boggling that we're supposed to sympathize with her as she makes out with Klein RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER BOYFRIEND'S BEST FRIEND and he's supposed to be the bad guy for ratting them out? As a Paul Verhoeven-esque satire of the tragic romance genre, this kinda works, but viewed straight it's kind of unbelievable that they released this movie without major reshoots or re-writes.
Ass Backwards (2013)
As other users have said, there's an obvious Romy & Michelle vibe (nothing wrong with that) - but where that film had heart, likable characters, and actual jokes, this one has absolutely none of that. The two main characters are abrasive, unlikable and interchangeable - their motivations and intelligence level seem to change from scene to scene. This is an almost Andy Kaufman-esque piece of anti-comedy - scenes drag on and on with awkward silences and nothing resembling jokes or even attempted jokes. I might have laughed once - it's an absolute chore to sit through.
I like Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael in other projects, but after this and Bride Wars, they need to take a break from screen writing. This makes Orci-Kurtzman scripts look like Charlie Kaufman or Tarantino.
The only way this can be redeemed is if Raphael does an episode of "How Did This Get Made?" (the bad-movie discussion podcast she co-hosts) devoted to this movie. She's usually the most likable, level-headed person on the show, who seems to actually want to discuss the shortcomings of the movie instead of just crack easy jokes; any insight into how this movie went so, so wrong would be fascinating to listen to.
Starts terrible, but gets better as it goes along....
Yes, the trailer is awful. Yes, the first half is excruciating. You couldn't pay me to watch the first half again, actually. But this movie actually gets MUCH better as it goes along! All sports comedies like this follow the same formula. I bet most of you can guess the ENTIRE plot of this movie. But the difference is in the details. And that's where Rebound surprised me - the team actually has some good character development, and Lawrence actually has a few great speeches ("...the games where Jordan was scoring the most, were the ones where the Bulls lost."). The love story between two of the players was sweet and surprising. The basketball scenes are exciting, even though the music seems to have been imported from a Bruckheimer movie. Even Horatio Sanz (worst "actor" ever) didn't annoy me.
It's refreshing to see a coach actually discuss STRATEGY in one of these kids movies. (unlike Hardball, where Keanu Reeves literally doesn't give ONE tip on how to play baseball) It's not a perfect movie - the Eddie Murphy-esquire preacher character (also played by Lawrence) is useless and seems like an afterthought. Megan Mullally literally disappears from the film halfway through. It appears to have been shot on a budget of $200. (The empty bleachers at the "big" college game!) All in all, it's nowhere as good as "real" sports movies like Friday Night Lights, but it beats the crap out of Juwanna Man or the Mighty Duck sequels.
Like a Greatest Hits Album.....
You know how you get a Greatest Hits Album and there's a handful of good songs, the ones you know and love, and then the rest are stinkers? Filler just put there to pad out the time? That's basically like Gigli, a movie that's not particularly good as a whole, but has some knockout individual scenes.
First off, let's be honest...it's not as bad as we've been led to believe. Look at the message board - more and more people are admitting "it's not that bad". Not exactly praise, but considering SO many people voted this into the Bottom 100 (it's at #29 when I wrote this), I think it's safe to say most of those were just padded votes, mainly from people who wanted to hate this movie and hated the whole "Bennifer" thing. Ebert gave it mild thumbs down and said he was deluged with hate mail complaining how he didn't hate it ENOUGH. Gimme a break.
OK, the plot is awful. No bones about that. In case you don't know, here it is: A mafia hit-man kidnap's a DA's retarded brother so the case won't go to trial. He's a notorious screwup, so the mob sends a 2nd hit-man, who's a lesbian and looks like a supermodel, to make sure Hit-man #1 doesn't screw up. They sit around an apartment, talking and debating. Random people show up and they have to hide the retarded kid. Every once in a while they go out for Mexican (in a convertible with the top down!!) What in the world?? And this was supposed to be a big summer movie? I suspect writer/director Martin Brest came up for the storyline in a dream and for some reason thought it was a good idea. It's not. Watching this movie is akin to having an annoying roommate who keeps changing the channel between Rain Man, Prizzi's Honor, Chasing Amy, a failed sitcom about hit men, and any play with one set and no budget.
Why do I kinda like this movie then? Same reason I dig Brest's Beverly Hills Cop - there's scenes in here that are to die for. I remember as a kid, i'd rewind scenes in Beverly Hills Cop over and over again, because I thought they were the funniest things ever. Same here. There's at least 3 or 4 awesome scenes, and about 5 good ones as well. The rest is filler.
Witness: The "rip that tears the past". The speech in front of the mirror. The yoga scene. "Turkey time. Gobble Gobble." "The Baywatch." The Tabasco sauce. The morgue. The plastic knife. The "sweet hetero-lingus". Christopher Walken, showing more fire in 3 minutes than he has in YEARS, talking about ice cream and Marie Callendar's pies. Pacino's scene. Yes, he's YELLING again. He's playing a mobster again. So what? Now name another recent movie with that many rewind-worthy scenes. I can't either.
Jennifer Lopez is sexy in this movie. Anyone who says she's not is lying. Ben Affleck is not. Nor is he supposed to be. People who say he's trying to be "sexy and dangerous" missed the point somewhere. He's doing a riff on Andrew Dice Clay, plain and simple. He knows he's acting like a buffoon. Anyone who likes him on SNL should like him here.
Everyone should see this movie at least once. You'll have a good time. Even if you're watching it to see how bad it is, you won't be disappointed. No, I wouldn't want to sit through the whole movie again. It's too long and i honestly can't remember what the hell happened at the end. But movies like this are why DVD was invented.
Ocean's Twelve (2004)
Worst Film of 2004
First of all, no, I'm not a film snob, and yes, I liked the first one. I love Traffic, I love Out of Sight. This is easily the worst Soderbergh movie ever. Worst Clooney movie ever. Yes, I've seen Return of the Killer Tomatoes. It's worse than Meet Joe Black. Mary Reilly. Volcano. Charlie's Angels 2. Eurotrip. Do you see what I'm getting at?
Before I get flamed on this website for being "too serious" or "looking too deep", let me point out what's wrong with this movie:
It's not funny. It's not exciting. It's not romantic. It's not clever. It's paced slower than molasses. I love Solaris, and that's a Michael Bay movie compared to this thing. It runs on 30 minutes too long. Even the premise of this movie is awful. The bad guy from the first movie wants his money back with interest so everyone agrees to steal again to pay him back?? What?? That's the plot of your movie? In related news, I hear they're going to make another Star Wars sequel where the Empire wants reparations for the damage done to the Death Star, so Han Solo throws up his hands and is like "well, alright, just gimme a week or two". That's a joke, by the way.
Yes, all of Ocean's 11 are back, but they are given literally nothing to do. It's actually a lot like American Pie 2, where the ads are like "everyone's back!" and then maybe 3 of the 12 people actually do anything.
Seriously, no spoilers here, but ask yourself at the end why did anyone even bother to appear, other than to fulfill their contract. How many of the 12 were actually involved in the heist? Entire scenes pass where key characters are missing, with no explanation. It doesn't appear the cast is in the same room with each other, and old-fashioned editing is used to make it seem like they are. Check out the scene on the ship when someone yells something to the camera. Cut to Bernie Mac, standing all by himself, nodding to the camera, as if he's having a conversation and not showing up on the set a month after the other actors have left.
Anything good to say about this movie? The acting's pretty good. Vincent Cassel is great as always, and will probably get lots of work in the U.S. now. (Unfortunately, probably picking up bad-guy roles Lambert "Merovingian" Wilson turns down) Julia Roberts is fantastic in a scene with a surprise actor. (I won't spoil it here). The scene with Matt Damon and Robbie Coltrane is amusing, but mainly b/c the joke is so old and creaky I couldn't believe this passes for humor in a big-budget movie in 2004. (You accidentally said something that translates to an insult about a relative!! That never happens in movies!!)
I saw this in a packed theater. I doubt everyone in the audience was an avant-garde film snob. But people were restless. People were groaning by about the 5th hour of this monstrosity. People were sleeping, for Pete's sake. I started to wonder who exactly "Pete" was, when i should have been paying attention to the movie.
I like most movies, I see. I'm not hard to please. So you know this movie's bad when I say it's the worst movie of 2004. Yes, I've seen Garfield. I've seen The Village. I've seen Fat Albert. I've seen Taxi. I'd rather watch any of those films than sit through this again.
After the Sunset (2004)
Ratner's Jackie Brown
Anyone who's been following movies for the last few years probably has a strong opinion of director Brett Ratner. Personally, I think he's a mediocre director at best, who simply makes faceless, anonymous popcorn flicks that make lots of money. I guess what irks most Ratner-haters is the fact that he seems to think he's the second coming, plays the Hollywood PR machine, and overloads his DVD's with WAY too much information about himself, as if anyone watching Rush Hour 2 wondered "Wow, did Truffaut direct this? I've got to find out more about this guy!" After the competent yet totally un-necessary Red Dragon, Ratner's moved on to After the Sunset, which at first glance looks like a high-tech crime caper, but grows into a fairly adult, mature character study, not unlike Tarantino's Jackie Brown. And like that film, audiences may find themselves confused and bored over the lack of action and plot twists (this film has probably the least amount of surprises of any heist film in recent memory - but when you become emotionally invested in the characters like this, that's a good thing).
Ratner's gone on record in interviews in saying that this is a love story, not between Brosnan and Hayek, but between Brosnan and Harrelson, and if you look at the film that way, you'll probably enjoy it a bit more than if you were expecting a Bond film or a slam-bang actioner. Their relationship is the center of the film, and provides a few touching scenes as well as some good laughs.
As for the heist itself, well, it's kinda rushed, totally unbelievable, and VERY reminiscent of Brosnan's remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, but all in all, it's a quick, fun 90 minutes, with fun performances, lots of eye candy for the guys (and girls), and shows Ratner may be maturing as a film-maker.
The Rundown (2003)
This nearly flawless action buddy movie somehow managed to open big then disappear from theaters, implying bad word-of-mouth or just a bad movie. Which is shocking since everyone I know LOVES this movie, even women and people who hate action movies. I suspect it'll be a cable TV favorite someday.
The big story here is The Rock - his performance is simply a revelation. I've always been a fan since his WWF days, so you can imagine how sorely disappointed I was with the disastrous The Scorpion King. Why cast the most charismatic in-ring superstar (sorry, Hogan and Austin) of all time in a monosyllabic grunting role The Undertaker would probably turn down? The Rock's over-the-top in-ring persona (the $500 shirts, the People's Eyebrow, referring to himself in 3rd person, etc..) seemed custom made for a Pootie Tang-esque comedy vehicle, so imagine my surprise at the depth and subtlety of his work in this one.
The Rock's performance melds the best of John McClane from Die Hard and William Munny from Unforgiven - he's a man able to keep a sense of humor, but also a tired, quiet man who's seen too many things and been through too many situations he'd like to forget. What could have been a blend of two clichés works smashingly well. Just watch any of his early scenes with Sean William Scott - The Rock delivers every one of his lines as if he's had to say it to some chump 20 times before; he answers every question as if he's been asked it a million times. There's so many unanswered questions, so much mystery surrounding his character (check out the tattoo on his arm), that his lack of character development actually works as character development (see the guys in Predator if you don't see what I mean). It's truly a great, surprising performance.
The film actually isn't totally successful. Rosario Dawson is under-used, Walken appears to be sleepwalking (he actually showed more fire in his cameo in Gigli than he does here), and the 2nd half isn't quite as good as the first - there's an Indiana Jones-esque sequence that feels entirely out of place and obvious edits to the final battle scene (watch the DVD deleted scenes for that).
But overall, this is a crowd-pleaser, pure and simple. Funnier than most alleged comedies these days, great over-the-top action sequences, and a star-making performance by The Rock make this one of my all time personal favorites.
The Education of Shelby Knox (2005)
Caught this inspiring and entertaining documentary at SXSW 2005 - it's a great film for teens and families to watch together.
The film follows Shelby Knox, a Lubbock, TX teen, as she fights for sex education in her conservative school, and later for gay rights, while trying to stay true to her Christian beliefs and principles. Though far from a "warts-and-all" documentary, Shelby isn't always cast in a sympathetic light, and many of her peers do question her motivations and perceive her as a spotlight-grabber.
What makes this film truly great is the interaction with Shelby and her conservative Christian parents - though they often disagree, their support for her and willingness to let her come to her own conclusions is truly inspiring and shows how important honest communication can be between parents and teenagers.
I can certainly see why some reviewers here felt this film was anti-Christian and made a cartoon villain of the abstinence-preaching pastor. However, the pastor is actually given plenty of screen time and gives several convincing arguments on why "safe sex" can be truly unsafe, and the film doesn't try to disagree with him. In fact, the movie itself doesn't take a hard stance one way or another on the issue of sex ed, it simply follows the internal struggle within Shelby and what it takes to be a liberal Christian in today's world.
Overall, this film was one of the favorites of many people I talked to at the SXSW Film Festival, and deservedly so.
Better than expected.....
I caught this one at SXSW 2005 - and was ready to hate it, mainly b/c of the ridiculous fanboy hype outside the theatre.
Yes, it's possible for a movie that nobody's heard of to have too much hype - it seems almost every low-budget horror movie these days has so much rabid fanaticism from the aintitcoolnews crowd, that all these movies tend to be decent but over-hyped (see Ginger Snaps, SAW), or just plain awful (see Jeepers Creepers, Dog Soldiers, Cabin Fever, or better yet, don't). The only one of these movies that lives up to the hype is the still-under-seen classic May.
While Reeker doesn't come close to the emotional punch of May, it's an entirely adequate schlock-horror movie that doesn't take itself too seriously, yet doesn't wink-and-nudge enough to ruin the material.
The less said about the plot, the better - it's essentially the same "college kids vs. monster" movie we've been seeing since Friday the 13th, but with the gimmick that the killer lets off a noxious odor before it strikes. (hence the somewhat juvenile title) And one of the kids is blind, so he can smell the killer better than the other kids. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Don't worry, though - there's a twist in the end that makes it all come together, believe it or not - try to stay away from spoilers if you can.
Probably doesn't sound too great so far, but there's some big, big laughs, a few decent scares, a cameo by Michael Ironside, and quite possibly the first and last use of Cutting Crew's 80s hit "I just died in your arms tonight" in a film. All in all, it's a fun movie to catch on cable or as a cheap rental.
Oh, the end credits contain a pre-emptive rant against critics who will title their reviews of this film "It Reeks/stinks!", and the scratch and sniff promo cards say on the back "If you're a p***y - stay at home". It's that type of movie.